After taking time off to be a wife and mother of two boys, Syleena Johnson is back, and she’s better than ever! She is making moves touring around the country promoting her recent album, Chapter V: Underrated, her new reality show with KeKe Wyatt, Faith Evans, Monifah Carter, and Nicci Gilbert called R&B Divas, and a workout DVD called Mommy’s Got Soul with fellow R&B Divas cast mate Nicci Gilbert. In this interview Syleena talks about her new projects, how she feels about today’s music and artists, and being called “underrated.”
GlossMagazineOnline (GMO): Being in the game for 15 years, do you see a change in the R&B of today as opposed to the R&B of back in the day?
Syleena Johnson: R&B has definitely changed, I mean it’s obvious. Hip Hop is becoming more dominant and popular, so it’s overshadowing R&B.
GMO: Do you think it’s harder for vets to stay in an industry filled with young artists?
Syleena: No. I’m 35, so I’m not that old. I really don’t see much of a difference. It’s the industry that goes to younger artists. Jay-Z is almost 40; Rick Ross isn’t young either, so it’s not hard. I mean, there are still artists in their 40s and beyond who are still in the industry.
GMO: Do you feel that R&B has fallen off or is it getting back on track? Are there any artists you like today?
Syleena: R&B has fallen off, but it’s only to build Hip Hop so that it’s more popular. It’s not bad, it’s just the trend now. At first it was R&B and then Hip Hop artists started collaborating with R&B [artists] and that went on and then R&B had to collab with Hip Hop. Now, Hip Hop is on its own. People search and try to find real Hip Hop because Hip Hop right now is getting too ridiculous. Artists I like now? I love Rihanna and Beyonce. Eminem is my favorite rapper; Drake, Lil Wayne sometimes because he’s an innovator; he pushes the envelope. Sometimes I don’t understand him, but he’s cool. I still like artists from my time like Kanye [West], Busta [Rhymes], love Chris Brown. I think he’s the next Michael Jackson.
GMO: Most of today’s artists talk about sex, money, cars, and other things in their songs. How hard is it to stay relevant and true to yourself instead of veering off to what other artists are doing nowadays?
Syleena: My personality trait, it’s just me. I do like to collaborate with Hip Hop artists, but I pick and choose who I want to collaborate with. As far as being relevant, my fans keep me relevant. I mean, who do you want to be relevant to? It is hard to be yourself because of the industry, that’s just the way it is. It’s hard for anyone, but if you have a hit song everybody is forgiven. To keep making hits is a real pressure.
GMO: Your recent album is title Chapter V: Underrated. How do you feel about being called “underrated?”
Syleena: The title of the album was created by the fans. I think being called underrated draws awareness and gets people to research who I am. It was kind of used as a branding tool [Laughs]. But, it’s really true; a lot of people are underrated. I think probably the most underrated have more love and drive for music. It’s okay to investigate further into an artist; it draws the fans to get the music.
GMO: Who do you think are underrated artists?
Syleena: The entire cast of R&B Divas. I think it’s a big deal being called “underrated” because the fans give us the titles and they have every right to because they buy the music. So, you know, embrace it.
GMO: What inspired you to write the songs found on Chapter V: Underrated, or any other songs? Is it hard to come up with new material after being in the industry for so long?
Syleena: I didn’t go into it with a plan. I just wrote songs with substance and meaning. No, it’s not hard to come up with new material because I’ve never been off the scene, and I’ve been recording consistently since my departure from Jive. I’ve had nine albums, so I don’t think it’s hard because I’ve never left, and I love what I do.
GMO: You have a show with KeKe Wyatt, Faith Evans, Monifah Carter, and Nicci Gilbert on TV One coming out later on this year called R&B Divas, and then you and Nicci have a fitness DVD called Mommy’s Got Soul. How did this show and workout DVD come about?
Syleena: Mommy’s Got Soul is a workout DVD I did on my own. Nicci and I have been friends for forever, so we came up with the idea for the show and it took a year to get it to where it is now. It’s more like a docu-series. It documents our lives, to being an R&B woman, wife, and mother. We switch roles like every 15 seconds and the show will show that.
GMO: What’s next for you?
Syleena: Promoting Mommy’s Got Soul which is, once again, a workout DVD for moms. I had my baby 15 months ago; Sheema (executive producer of the DVD) just had a baby, so I just wanted to use all mothers. I think this workout DVD is more inspiring because we’re not skinny girls, but we’re losing the weight. I mean, who wants to be still fat? You’re running around and adjusting to being a mom, turn on the DVD if you can’t go to the gym. When you turn on some workout DVDs, you see skinny women with chiseled stomachs saying they just had their baby and want to lose weight. [Laughs] That’s cute, but I would be done with that in three days. But, if you see women who actually look like they just had babies and they’re trying to lose the weight, I think that’ll make you want to lose the weight even more. The DVD has a cool-down section right after the whole workout and a nutrient section since science was my major in college.